Gentle Regrets: Thoughts From a Life

Gentle Regrets: Thoughts From a Life



The Pequod Review:

Roger Scruton (1944-2020) is one of the more underrated modern political philosophers, the author a number of thoughtful and intelligent books outlining his vision of conservatism. Gentle Regrets is his autobiography, which focuses less on the events in his life than on his social and political philosophy. Here he describes modernism:

Modernism in architecture was an attempt to remake the world as though it contained nothing save atomic individuals, disinfected of the past, and living like ants within their metallic and functional shells... The aesthetics of modernism, with its denial of the past, its vandalization of the landscape and townscape, and its attempt to purge the world of history, was also a denial of community, home, and settlement.

And here he explains the value of religion:

In our civilization, therefore, religion is the force that has enabled us to bear our losses and so to face them as truly ours. The loss of religion makes real loss difficult to bear; hence people begin to flee from loss, to make light of it, or to expel from themselves the feelings that make it inevitable. They do not do this in the way of the Upanishads, which exhort us to an immense spiritual labor, whereby we free ourselves from the weight of Dharma and slowly ascend to the blessed state of Brahma. The path of renunciation presupposes, after all, that there is something to renounce. Modern people pursue not penitence but pleasure, in the hope of achieving a condition in which renunciation is pointless since there is nothing to renounce. Renunciation of love is possible only when you have learned to love. This is why we see emerging a kind of contagious hardness of heart, an assumption on every side that there is no tragedy, no grief, no mourning, for there is nothing to mourn. There is neither love nor happiness — only fun. For us, one might be tempted to suggest, the loss of religion is the loss of loss.

Except that the loss need not occur. This is the lesson that I draw from my own experience, and that has caused me to revisit the Christianity of my youth.

These traditional/conservative perspectives are rarely articulated so lucidly or intelligently in modern debates. Recommended, especially if you don't agree with his views.